Oct. 8—AUBURN — The information launch was like many issued by authorities when an individual goes lacking …. apart from one element. The individual, a younger lady who had been dwelling in Auburn, had been lacking for 2 years.
“The Auburn Police Division is in search of help in finding 29 y/o Celeste Doghmi,” the June 29 Auburn Police Division information launch mentioned. “Ms. Doghmi, a German citizen, was final recognized to be within the Auburn space on the finish of July 2021. Doghmi’s household, who lives overseas hasn’t been capable of contact her since.”
Doghmi, initially from Germany by the use of Florida, couldn’t be discovered Could 3 when Auburn police knocked on her door at 85 Academy St. Police have been attempting to find her for a parental custody matter, Auburn police Chief Deputy Tim Cougle mentioned in a July e-mail.
Police made vital efforts to trace down members of the family who dwell abroad and people within the space who know her, Cougle mentioned. The responding officer initiated a lacking individual report beneath a heading of “suspicious situation” at about midday on Could 3 at 85 Academy St., in accordance with police logs. The deal with was her final recognized deal with, in accordance with data.
Cougle mentioned police have been capable of affirm Doghmi’s whereabouts till the tip of July 2021 — virtually two years earlier — and that no lacking individual reviews have been made previous to his division’s report. Police conferred with state and federal businesses earlier than issuing their launch in hopes somebody could acknowledge her, he mentioned.
Maine Public Security spokesperson Shannon Moss mentioned in July that state police are aiding Auburn police within the investigation. Extra lately, Moss mentioned Auburn police have been nonetheless main the case.
Preliminary inquiries by the Solar Journal into the girl’s disappearance led to extra questions than solutions, together with why her boyfriend on the time didn’t report her lacking, the explanations behind why she grew to become estranged from her household and mates, and what finally occurred to the then-27-year-old mom who lived in Auburn for 2 years and whose child was taken into state custody in April 2023.
Within the days following the information launch issued by Auburn police, a number of family and friends members responded to questions from the Solar Journal about Celeste’s life and the circumstances round her disappearance. Doghmi’s mom, Stephanie Doghmi, confirmed Celeste was born in Germany, immigrated to the USA from Frankfurt together with her mom in 1995 on the age of two and spent a few of her early life in Florida. The Doghmi household moved across the deep South for some time, settling again in Florida for a while, earlier than Celeste moved to Maine with a person she met in Louisiana.
Melissa Bonacci met the Doghmis in 2001 once they moved to the Largo, Florida, space. They have been virtually neighbors and each single-parent households. Celeste grew near the household, changing into greatest mates and frequent playmate to Bonacci’s daughter.
“She referred to as my brother Uncle Shawn, and I used to be Auntie Mel and my mother is Nana to everybody,” Bonacci mentioned. “We handled Celeste like household as a result of she solely had her mother.”
The Doghmis moved on in 2005, Bonacci mentioned, and he or she didn’t see Celeste once more till round 2012. She mentioned it was obvious the household had gone by arduous instances. The teenager was not in class and was struggling emotionally and bodily, so she was invited again into the Bonacci family, the place she stayed on and off, mentioned Bonacci.
Bonacci mentioned she misplaced common contact with Celeste for a number of years after she determined to maneuver to Tampa. Nonetheless, on one event when Celeste got here by, Bonacci mentioned it was clear that the troubles Celeste had been going by in her youth have been behind her and that she was on a a lot straighter path.
Then, Bonacci was away from Florida in 2020 in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic when she received a name from her mom in Largo, who mentioned Celeste dropped by in search of her.
“She began speaking to my mother about how she was actually attempting to get her stuff collectively, however that she was on this relationship with this man and he was tremendous abusive to her, that she was pregnant, wanted a spot to remain and get out of the scenario she was in.”
Celeste was at first phases of being pregnant when she returned to the Tampa space, longtime pal Chris Worthey mentioned. She was joyful to be carrying the infant, however she was not wholesome, he mentioned. She was skinny, hungry and drained, so Worthey and his household did what they may to assist.
Bonacci talked on the telephone with Celeste and recommended she keep put till Bonacci may return, open the home and set her as much as keep. Celeste agreed, however simply earlier than Bonacci was set to return to Florida, and after a while recouping on the Worthey family, Celeste informed Bonacci she was returning to Maine to work issues out after talking together with her boyfriend.
“I simply informed her, ‘I don’t assume this can be a good thought, I don’t assume it is best to return there,’” Bonacci recalled. “I informed her, ‘You possibly can come right here and I’ll assist you with the infant and you may return to highschool right here, do all of the issues right here.’”
Highschool pal Gina Hudnall mentioned Celeste stayed together with her household for about three years when she enrolled in Largo Excessive Faculty and the 2 ended up rising shut. Celeste’s rebound from a tough upbringing and drug habit as soon as she grew to become a mom is essential to acknowledge as a result of she “did a whole 360,” Hudnall mentioned. She threw herself fully into her little one’s life, permitting her previous traumas and struggles with habit to gas a ardour in her to boost her little one with out the identical issues she confronted, Hudnall mentioned.
Celeste would name or chat with Hudnall to speak motherhood and ask about each small element like sunscreen and teething medication.
“All the best way all the way down to what sort of fragrance she would even put on, sure fragrances, dyes, Purple Dye No. 40,” mentioned Hudnall. “She was actually explicit with what she was placing in her physique and his setting and placing on him. There was like that little maternal change that had gone off in her.”
Communication with Celeste was sparse after she returned to Maine. Celeste’s mom, Stephanie, mentioned she knew Celeste had at one level been working within the kitchen of a giant manufacturing firm within the Lewiston-Auburn space and that she was enrolling in a nursing program within the space. Stephanie mentioned she believed Celeste purchased her first semester textbooks and probably attended an orientation earlier than going lacking. Worthey mentioned her school programs have been on-line.
Details about the hospital the place Celeste delivered her child and the place she was planning on going to school was not out there.
Stephanie mentioned she and Celeste’s sister, Danielle Hursey, distanced themselves attributable to Celeste’s alleged abuse and refusal to separate from her boyfriend and didn’t know Celeste was not in contact with every other household or mates.
“That is the place everybody in Celeste’s world dropped the ball on her,” Stephanie mentioned. “She grew to become alone and doubtless felt remoted. … I knew she was in an abusive relationship, (however) she was decided to make it work. … Bruises and black eyes. I couldn’t sit by and watch or worst, fake to agree together with her alternative of man. It was breaking my coronary heart. She was on her manner someplace in life. She at all times talked about being a nurse for the infants within the ICU.”
The Solar Journal reached out to Celeste’s sister Danielle Hursey, who Stephanie mentioned noticed Celeste’s accidents throughout her brief keep in Florida earlier than returning to Maine. After preliminary emails with Hursey, Stephanie reached out asking for no additional makes an attempt to contact Hursey as she couldn’t carry herself to discuss her sister’s disappearance, which has been traumatic for her.
Bonacci mentioned she stored in contact when Celeste returned to Maine and had her child. She despatched Celeste the one footage she had of her and the household and, in return, Celeste would ship her footage of her, her boyfriend and the infant.
“Celeste was a fighter. She was a tiny little factor. She had the largest smile you’d ever need to see,” Bonacci mentioned. “I imply, her face was angelic and would simply mild up when she smiled, and he or she did have a gleam in her eyes, and I may inform when he started to take that from her.”
Celeste’s final publicly seen social media exercise, a Fb publish dated June 24, 2021, speaks of her then 6-month-old child.
“Watching my son and my coronary heart is actually overflowing with love and pleasure,” the publish reads. “I made this wonderful little dude and for the lifetime of me, don’t know the way I ever deserved such a present! He amazes me extra with each passing day. He’s such a cheerful giggly boy and I completely love him with each fiber of my being.”
Bonacci shared posts by Celeste from July 2021 that aren’t seen on Celeste’s timeline.
“This scorching mama is formally enrolled in school,” Celeste mentioned in a July 14, 2021, publish that she marked “feeling proud.” “Exterior of giving delivery to the sweetest little boy, this will likely be my second biggest accomplishment. And OMG! I’m so excited.”
In a July 22, 2021, publish, her final in accordance with Bonacci, Celeste spoke of acquiring her highschool completion transcripts and shopping for the subsequent semester’s textbooks.
“Oh MY Freaking Gawd!!! Y’all I swear, the universe is lastly wanting upon ya woman with mad love and charm!!! My GED transcripts got here by and I’ll be signing up for courses tomorrow! The whole lot is PAID and I’ve already gotten my Medical Terminology e book and all of the provides I may ever hope to make use of this semester. I can’t wait to be raking in all this data! Mama about to be SMART!!!! I’ve actually spent the final half hour leaping up and down crying my eyes out trigger I believed I used to be gonna miss it this semester.”
After which she was gone.
Hudnall, together with the few who have been near Celeste, mentioned she would by no means go away her little one particularly beneath circumstances that have been starting to echo the childhood she went by herself.
“I simply don’t assume somebody’s going to go from ‘solely use secure mineral sunscreen with no zinc in it, and pureed child meals, and don’t use OraGel’ to ‘peace out, homie, by no means going to see you once more,’” mentioned Hudnall.
When she misplaced contact with Celeste, Hudnall mentioned she didn’t query it as a result of she knew she was busy with college, motherhood and was, she hoped, getting misplaced within the throes of the household life she at all times desperately needed.
After a number of months, Bonacci, too, mentioned she didn’t query the shortage of communication; nevertheless, as 2022 approached, she grew to become involved since Celeste had not returned calls or messages. Bonacci mentioned Stephanie and Danielle had returned to Germany and no different household or mutual mates Bonacci spoke with had been in contact with Celeste or had any solution to attain her mom or sister.
“At first, I simply thought possibly (Celeste) is busy. However then it began to be type of evident, ‘There’s an issue, there’s an issue. No person’s heard from Celeste,’” mentioned Bonacci.
The Nationwide Lacking and Unidentified Individuals System (NamUs) is a useful resource by the Nationwide Institute of Justice, a Division of Justice program. NamUs employs specialists with DOJ clearances who populate a database of lacking individuals.
Sheila Jerusalem, NIJ public affairs specialist, mentioned NamUs is just not an investigating company, however does work with regulation enforcement at each degree to verify data in each case.
“A NamUs case might be created by the general public however is simply publicly viewable as soon as the regulation enforcement investigator assigned to the case provides permission to publish,” Jerusalem mentioned in a July interview.
Doghmi’s NamUs case says the final individual to see her was her ex-boyfriend, a proven fact that, in accordance with NamUs coverage, can solely be established with the investigating company, Auburn police on this case.
In response to Bonacci’s mom, Catherine Magee, in a Fb publish begging for the general public’s assist, Celeste “went for a stroll and by no means returned leaving her child and all her belongings behind.”
Magee didn’t reply to questions as of press time. Deputy Chief Cougle mentioned Thursday that the NamUs data was from preliminary reporting — relationship again to Could — which is probably not correct.
Stephanie Doghmi mentioned Celeste was working as a landscaper in Slidell, Louisiana, when she met John Alexander Benton. The 2 moved to Maine in 2018, dwelling with Benton’s household till early 2019 once they moved to 85 Academy St. in Auburn, she mentioned. Benton’s prison data confirmed 85 Academy St. was additionally Benton’s deal with as of August 2022.
Previous to assembly Celeste Doghmi, Benton had a prison historical past in Texas and, since her disappearance, Benton has had extra run-ins with the regulation. In November 2022, he was indicted in Cumberland County on prices stemming from an August arrest for home violence assault, home violence aggravated assault and illegal sexual contact.
Then, he was arrested April 3, 2023, in Saco and later indicted July 6 on prices of home violence aggravated assault, home violence prison threatening with a firearm or harmful weapon, violating situations of launch and prison restraint. Celeste was not the sufferer in both the Cumberland County or Saco circumstances.
Benton was convicted Aug. 28 on a number of prices stemming from each indictments.
On the Cumberland County prices, Benton was convicted of home violence assault and sentenced to 364 days in jail; two counts of violating situations of launch, sentenced to at least one 12 months; two counts of home violence aggravated assault, sentenced to seven years with all however 18 months suspended and 4 years of probation; and violating situations of launch, sentenced to at least one 12 months.
The York County indictments led to convictions for home violence aggravated assault and a sentence of three years with all however 12 months suspended and 4 years of probation; 5 counts of working a automobile with no license, sentenced to 6 months; and three counts of violating situations of launch, sentenced to 12 months.
Benton was held at Cumberland County Jail from April 7 till his sentencing and is now being held on the Maine Correctional Heart in Windham. His earliest launch date is July 15, 2024, assuming all attainable good time credit are awarded.
Worthey mentioned Benton’s current convictions got here as no shock. When Celeste mentioned she needed to “give John one other probability,” Worthey mentioned he informed her, “I don’t like this man, I simply don’t belief him.”
So, Worthey made it a degree to speak to Celeste practically each day all through the being pregnant and after the infant was born when she returned to Maine. And Celeste was joyful to remain in contact so usually. He mentioned Celeste would maintain her child as much as him throughout video chats and that she would present him across the condo. Whether or not by alternative or not, Worthey mentioned it was evident she by no means left that condo as she was not working and was to be attending college on-line.
Celeste confirmed him what regarded like over 100 hashish vegetation all through the condo, which she mentioned Benton was rising to complement revenue, in accordance with Worthey. Worthey mentioned Celeste informed him she would harvest and promote the hashish at Benton’s course whereas he was at work, which was irritating for the setting and other people it attracted. Moreover the implications to her and the infant, Worthey informed Celeste the vegetation and the warmth and electrical energy it takes to develop them would stick out to anybody canvassing the world for unlawful rising.
Worthey mentioned a video chat with Celeste on July 6, 2021, left him disturbed.
“This was the final day I noticed her — and I knew one thing had occurred,” Worthey mentioned. Throughout that chat, Celeste confirmed Worthey a bald spot on the highest of her head the place a patch of hair was lacking. “I’m like, ‘alright, Celeste, you’re coming down right here with me and my mother.’”
Celeste informed him she would go away, that she would get issues so as, and Worthey informed her he would purchase the aircraft tickets. Worthey mentioned she began tearing up the hashish vegetation, however Benton got here house throughout their name.
“He goes, ‘what the (expletive) are you doing, are you (expletive) silly?’” Worthey recounted. “He’s yelling at her, and he or she was like, ‘You’re attempting to get our child taken. You’re silly. We’re going to get the door kicked in.’”
Worthey mentioned Benton grabbed on the telephone, it fell, after which it was hung up. Worthey tried calling again 20 to 30 instances with no reply. That was the final time he heard from her and two weeks later she made her final Fb publish.
Everybody Worthey reached out to mentioned he was overreacting as Celeste was recognized for going off grid, however he mentioned at any time when Celeste would get into bother, irrespective of how badly, she would attain out to him both to let him know she was alright or to ask him for assist. That was why he by no means thought to achieve out to police, he mentioned.
“However she wasn’t on medicine anymore. She was clear. She was a wholesome ‘thick,’ and he or she was right here for (her child). She’d do something for (her child) …. Weeks went previous, months went previous, now it’s a 12 months and longer and I’m anxious. Immediately, her mother texts me and mentioned ‘she’s gone! John mentioned she went for a stroll and by no means got here again’ …. After she ripped up the vegetation, she knew that I used to be scared for her that night time and he or she would have referred to as again. I’m so upset as a result of I informed everybody, however no one would hearken to me.”
Whereas police didn’t affirm a state company made the Could 3 name asking for Celeste’s whereabouts, Stephanie mentioned she reached out quickly after to a Division of Well being and Human Companies’ Workplace of Youngster and Household Companies caseworker about Celeste’s little one.
“When she was giving delivery to her son, she confided within the nurses and docs that she was bodily abused all through her being pregnant by her boyfriend,” Stephanie mentioned. “It was not till months later that (OCFS) confirmed as much as comply with up on what was reported on the hospital on the time of delivery. To my information this was the primary time (OCFS) was concerned with Celeste and her son.”
The caseworker, hoping to seek out Celeste by Stephanie, described the kid’s setting as “dwelling in a struggle zone” and was seized from the house. Stephanie mentioned she is making an attempt to realize custody of her grandson, however the OFCS caseworker and Maine DHHS ombudsman haven’t returned her calls or emails.
The above data couldn’t be corroborated by the Workplace of Youngster and Household Companies as a result of officers declined to speak concerning the case, which is routine for the company. As such, DHHS was additionally unable to reply if the kid, now 2 to three years previous, is in state custody.
In a letter to the Maine DHHS ombudsman’s workplace which Stephanie supplied, she mentioned Benton by no means notified anybody of Celeste’s disappearance and “merely moved one other woman in as a girlfriend.”
An individual claiming to be the mom of Benton’s home violence sufferer, a companion after Celeste’s disappearance, contacted Stephanie through Fb asking for her assist to “preserve Benton behind bars,” Stephanie mentioned.
“I had this intestine feeling she was hiding one thing or she was not fully trustworthy about one thing,” Stephanie mentioned. “I lower ties together with her.”
The Solar Journal contacted the sufferer and the individual claiming to be her mom and solely the sufferer replied. After confirming she knew Benton and was accustomed to his prices, she declined to touch upon the report.
The Maine Division of Corrections declined to permit Benton to talk with the Solar Journal. No response was given when requested why the request was denied.
“It’s unusual that this size of time would go by with out somebody reporting her as an individual lacking,” Cougle mentioned. “Nonetheless, on this explicit case Ms. Doghmi is from one other nation, she had restricted contact together with her household abroad for the previous few years and doesn’t seem to have many connections to this space.”
Cougle mentioned he wouldn’t speculate on the case, however an “overwhelming majority” of grownup lacking individuals circumstances are both positioned or contact police when they’re alerted somebody is in search of them.
“A majority of these circumstances might be harder attributable to the truth that adults have the fitting to free motion and journey as they please and to not contact anybody if they need,” Cougle mentioned.
The investigation will stay beneath native jurisdiction with state police aiding, however relying on circumstances, the lead company could transfer on to state police or a federal company, Cougle mentioned. In any case, Auburn police will proceed working with regulation enforcement of all ranges to find Celeste Doghmi, he mentioned.
As of Sept. 18, there have been no updates on the case, in accordance with Cougle.
Celeste Doghmi is 5 ft, 2 inches tall. She has brown pores and skin and brown eyes, and weighed 110 kilos and had brown hair when she was final seen. She has a big tattoo on her proper leg of a dreamcatcher with feathers.
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